In a shocking ad on Friday morning, Spiaggia – the standard for Italian restaurants in Chicago for the past 37 years – will not reopen, one property says they are permanently closed. Spiaggia, and its more affordable sibling, Cafe Spiaggia, had been closed since last year at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. The restaurant is a Chicago icon overlooking the Mag Mile with a view from the second floor overlooking Oak Street Beach.
Spiaggia reports to Levy Restaurants, the company that also owns River Roast along the Chicago River. The property said it intended to reopen, but blamed the decision to close on the inability to reach an agreement with its landlord to restructure its lease “which was necessary to reflect the realities of operating. a restaurant in an office building after the pandemic “.
Setting the standard for fine Italian cuisine has been our honor.
Celebrating it with you was our joy.
– Restaurant Spiaggia (@SpiaggiaChicago) July 9, 2021
The restaurant was a critical success, earning four stars from the former Tribune critic Phil Vettel. He described Spiaggia as “the best Italian restaurant in Chicago”. The review came in 2014 after a major renovation. The famous and luxurious place featured marble columns and magnificent views of the city that earned Michelin stars for 12 consecutive years. The tire guide rarely recognizes Italian restaurants in America, which makes this honor unique. Tony Mantuano, the beloved Chicago chef who founded Spiaggia in 1984, left the restaurant and Chicago in 2019. Mantuano, born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is also an Italian citizen. He showed his love for the culture and his family’s roots at the restaurant. After leaving Chicago, he opened a restaurant last year in Nashville.
Mantuano sent a statement Friday afternoon that mentioned the importance of the restaurant to him and his wife:. Many talented chefs and employees have made a significant impact on the culinary industry, and we know they will always have a piece of Spiaggia with them. “
Mantuano was part of a wave of Chicago celebrity chefs including Rick Bayless and Charlie Trotter, who all started around the same time. He spoke to Fooditor two years ago and said Spiaggia would define itself by its fresh pasta and cooking with wood and charcoal. The chef thought that these traditional methods, long used in Spiaggia, were once again gaining favor with the young chefs.
Spiaggia was a training ground for many. Joe Flamm worked for years with Mantuano before leaving in 2019 to eventually open Rose Mary at Fulton Market. Monteverde chef and owner Sarah Grueneberg spent eight years in the restaurant before leaving in 2013. Both chefs were Excellent chef competitors, and this exhibition attracted new guests who helped develop Spiaggia’s clientele.
Flamm, who celebrated the birth of a girl earlier this week, spoke to Mantuano on Friday. He explained how the restaurant introduced him to talents like the former Spiaggia and New York star chef Missy Robbins. He says he spent Friday texting former colleagues and having a virtual Irish wake by sharing stories. “We used to joke with Tony, we might not be the best Michelin starred restaurant, but we had the most fun,” says Flamm.
Almost four decades is an eternity for a restaurant, and Flamm compared it to a Broadway show where 10 years is considered a huge success: “The time is coming for all of us, restaurants more than most things. It doesn’t hurt any less.
One of the secrets of the restaurant’s success along with Mantuano’s confidence in his business. While some things couldn’t change – “a carbonara was a carbonara” – Flamm said Mantuano was open to listening to new ideas, encouraging staff to share their ideas. It helped Spiaggia shine.
Throughout the pandemic, restaurateurs have done business with homeowners, knowing that suspending indoor dining will not allow them to pay their rents. A lack of tourism and office workers posed more challenges for downtown restaurants. There are also vacancies. For example, Water Tower Place – the mall just south of the 57-story office building that housed Spiaggia – is struggling to find a primary tenant to replace Macy’s. On Friday morning, news broke that Target had withdrawn from the race.
Flamm doesn’t think the industry can go back in time and copy what made Spiaggia great. In many ways, it was “a glimpse of the cuisine of yesteryear”.
“They had a piano on the ceiling,” Flamm says, referring to what Spiaggia looked like in the early ’80s. “How many restaurants had this?”
Flamm adds: “It’s such a precious piece of history, you just can’t replace history, it never works.”
This story has been updated since Friday morning with comments from Tony Mantuano and Joe Flamm.